Have you ever sat in a long meeting or seminar and found yourself getting sleepy, antsy, and dying for a break so you could get up and move around?
Research shows that physical movement can enhance clarity, attention, and readiness for learning. Physical movement increases oxygen flow to the brain, improving alertness, concentration, and receptivity. Adding movement or physical action to a learning activity increases recall.
At the Learning Center, we find that integrative movements that cross the midline of the body are extremely helpful in bringing students to a calm, alert, and mentally and emotionally ready state for learning.
Periodic brain breaks that involve movement throughout the school day and homework time will also improve learning, productivity, and attitude.
Here are some references for fun, quick, movement exercises that can be easily integrated into the classroom, clinic, or home:
Brain Gym Teacher’s Edition by Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison (www.braingym.com)
Hands On: How to use Brain Gym in the Classroom by Isabel Cohen and Marcelle Goldsmith (www.braingym.com)
Move It: Physical Movement and Learning by Alistair Smith (www.networkpress.co.uk/MI)
Brain Breaks (www.alite.co.uk/information/brain_breaks)
Deep breathing and water are also great brain energizers. Deep breathing immediately brings more oxygen to the brain and encourages relaxation, improving thinking and focus. Water improves the electrical transmissions in the brain and nervous system, providing energy for learning and attention.
Movement Breaks and Struggling Students
For students who struggle in school, recess may be their “best subject” of the day. They need the movement and mental break in order to re-focus and do their best in the classroom.
The same is absolutely true with homework. It may be hard to give your kids periodic 5 – 15 minutes break in homework because you don’t want to add any more time to the hours you’re already spending. But the bottom line is, that a few brain breaks may actually reduce the amount of time you have to spend.
Why Do Smart Kids Struggle?
Reading, writing, spelling, math, social, and school skills are supported by numerous underlying learning skills. If one or more of these underlying skills is weak, it will cause the student to have to work harder, longer, and less effectively than expected.
But the brain is amazing! Brain research over the last 30 years and the decades of clinical work in the trenches actually working with children and adults with learning challenges, have shown that these underlying learning skills can be developed. The brain can change. New, more efficient neuropathways, or connections in the brain, can be made so that learning can be easier. Once the brain is getting the information it needs, it can do the job it is meant to do – to learn!
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